This is what happened, one year ago.
E and I were going to take a bath together. She is eight and I know the days are limited that she will want to take a bath with her mom. So I take it whenever it comes. We are getting in the tub and something comes up about breasts.
How are you going to feel when you get your breasts? I ask her.
I will just have a transplant, she responds.
Remember: she is eight. What she means is: I will have them removed. And then it comes. The conversation, the words that change everything. She is a boy, she tells me. She has kept it a secret for two years. (Translation: a long time.) Can she have a breast transplant and then walk around without a shirt, like a boy? Can she wear boxers? What about her name? It says E on her birth certificate – is that permanent? Everyone thinks she is a girl. What is she supposed to do? She wants a boy’s name. She has one picked out.
Why didn’t you tell me before? I ask her. We’ve talked about this before. I am calm, very even. She is on the verge of tears and shaking.
Because you always say I’m your girl.
Does it bother you when I say that?
Yes and no. she says.
I get it. I get exactly what she means.
She begs me not to tell Daddy. Not to tell her brother. She is choking on her tears. I am staying very calm. It’s not like me, really – I emote. But I can tell that this conversation, this moment is going to define us and I have to be okay with what she is saying. I have to let her know that I am someone she can talk to about this. I have to just accept what she is saying.
Here’s where I lose it, at the very end:
Mommy, you know how you always say that I’m exactly the kind of girl you like? That I’m the exact right kind of girl for you? Am I still, Mommy?
The tears come from both of us and she swims her little self over to me. We hug each other. I tell her she is exactly right for me.